Blogs for November, 2014
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
checkout the archived city farm blog articles to learn about our takes on farm & city life
This Thanksgiving, are you going patriotic on your dinner party? Does your pilgrim menu hearken back to only that which the Native Americans served? That sounds fun! Educational! And limited! If your menu is missing some flavors, think bigger. Like Statue of Liberty big, this land is your land, big. There are a lot of fun flavors and foods that are very ‘merican.
Because America’s dinner tables are just that, a flavorful mix of other nation’s cuisines. So while it is good to honor what grew natively in our land, it’s très American to add hints of flavor from around the world, honoring that poem carved on the base of Lady Liberty:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Emma Lazarus’s words are so powerful, I wouldn’t dare change them. But if I did, it might go a little like this:
Give me your meatballs, your macaroni,
Your spaghetti, yearning to breathe free…
If I could add on, it would be to ask all immigrants to continue sharing the food and recipes from their native lands, letting us all continue to learn, taste, and grow. NPR’s The Salt highlighted this very sentiment in their piece “A Journey Through the History of American Food in 100 Bites.” “Apple pie isn’t American in the way people often mean. Every ingredient, from apples to butter to nutmeg and cinnamon, came from somewhere else.
“But then, so do most Americans.”
Let’s start with Brussels sprouts. “Sprouts were believed to have been cultivated in Italy in Roman times, and possibly as early as the 1200s in Belgium. The modern Brussels sprout that we are familiar with was first cultivated in large quantities in Belgium (hence the name “Brussels” sprouts) as early as 1587, with their introduction into the U.S. in the 1800s. They were grown in California in the early 1900s, with the first central coast plantings in the 1920s.”
To grow your own Brussels sprouts:
What are you preparing or planting for your cross-cultural/American Thanksgiving? Leave a note in the comment section , or tell us on Twitter! @TheCityFarm & @RebeccaSnavely
Every holiday, my friends request this recipe! Be sure to check out my cookbook, All Time Favorite Recipes, for more recipes from family and friends. Enjoy!
4 pounds red-skinned yams
1/2 cup whipping cream
6 Tbsp. butter
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
3 Tbsp. bourbon
1-1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground allspice
3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Roast yams on rimmed baking sheet until tender, about 1 hour.
Cool slightly. Scoop inside of yams into large bowl. Discard skins.
Mash yams into coarse puree.
Stir cream and butter into hot yams.
Stir in syrup, bourbon and all spices.
Season with salt & pepper. Sprinkle nuts over and serve.
DO AHEAD. Can be prepared 1 day ahead.
Cover & chill. Re-warm in microwave.
Sprinkle nuts over and serve.
(Photo Credit: Pinterest)
I was going to work on a “growing gratitude” post for Thanksgiving this last weekend, but then the accounting that I’d been working on all weekend vanished in the spinning (yet colorful!) pinwheel of frozen death. All is well now, but by the end of the experience, my brain was mushy from number-crunching and I felt very little space in my little hard heart for giving thanks.
But! It’s a new day. And it’s November, even through there’s little evidence here in L.A., where I’m still wearing a tank top on my morning run. I wanted a reminder of the season, something to trigger a space in my soul that we’re approaching our celebration of gratitude.
Every December, I faithfully watch “Little Women” and Barbara Stanwyck’s “Christmas in Connecticut” to get me in the holiday spirit, but I don’t have a go-to for Turkey Day. Looking for a list of Thanksgiving movies, I find there is a dearth of delightful classics. I guess I could watch Katie Holmes battle her family, a turkey, and heavy eyeliner in “Pieces of April.” But it doesn’t cut it. Nor do the giant retailers: The day after Halloween, Starbucks and CVS had Christmas décor lining the aisles, pumpkin flavored everything making way for Christmas blends and blinky lights.
What happened to Thanksgiving to make it the redheaded stepchild of the holiday calendar? And how can we reclaim it, and give it its rightful place on the calendar and in our shopping malls?
Ah – that explains it. We don’t buy much for Thanksgiving. It’s the anti-retailer holiday. People actually go out of their way to volunteer at a homeless shelter this one Thursday of the year. There’s no undercover mascot like a “Secret Santa” to send us to stores to buy electronics for a co-worker we’ve never met.
That’s the beauty of Thanksgiving – we gather bearing casseroles and time-honored cranberries from a can to over-eat and remind ourselves that even without the gifts under the tree or the mad dashes for last minute trinkets, we are grateful.
Another way to find gratitude is to dig in the dirt. Caring for and growing your own food and flowers is a great way to connect with the daily cycle of your life, to press pause on your busy day and check in on your plants. If you’re looking to grow some traditional Turkey day items, take a look at last year’s “Growing Gratitude” post on cranberries and mindful eating, the history of the squash as inspired by Little Women, or the history of carrots and a link to growing your own. It’s also a great idea to create your centerpiece from your own garden – explore in your garden and get creative with your greens.
(Photo Credit: Sad Turkey via Snippets & Slappits)
I love making this easy Pumpkin Nut Cake recipe around the holidays. My friends and family love it! Let me know if you try it. Enjoy!
1 pound can of pumpkin
3/4 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water
2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
2-1/4 cup sugar
1-1/2 tsp. baking soda
1-1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 tsp. nutmeg
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup yellow raisins
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
For the icing:
4 oz. cream cheese
3 Tbsp. butter
1 tsp. lemon juice or vanilla
1/2 of a 16 oz. box confectioners sugar
Beat the eggs, pumpkin, canola oil, and water together.
Then add into the mixture the flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, yellow raisins, and walnuts.
Pour into buttered pan. Bake at 350º for 2 hours. Cool cake and frost with icing.
For the icing, beat all the ingredients. Frost cake.Sprinkle with chopped walnuts.
(Image Credit: Pinterest)
If you read my post on “’Little Women’ and the History of the Squash,” you know my love for the 1994 film adaptation of Alcott’s book, and my Christmas tradition that surrounds it, trimming a tree and watching the film with a friend over a bowl of popcorn and mugs of mulled wine.
And thus you’ll understand my distress upon reading the recent news that ABC is going to attempt a television version of my beloved book and movie. I wondered what it is I love so much about the 1994 version, besides the obvious: Susan Sarandon IS Marmee and know one else should ever try to replace her.
It’s also Jo’s imagination, that “late at night my mind would come alive with voices and stories and friends as dear to me as any in the real world. I gave myself up to it, longing for transformation.” It’s Laurie’s heartbreak when Jo refuses his proposal. It’s the friendship between sisters who care for each other and burn each other’s books and create the Pickwick Club to critique stories and put on plays. It’s Beth’s love for the poor Hummel family. It’s Amy’s limes in winter and Marmee’s feminist indignation when Amy’s teacher tells her it is “as useful to educate a woman as to educate a female cat.”
There are so many beautiful details in the film, colors that stand out against the stark, often dark landscape of the lean times surrounding The Civil War. The bright green limes in the winter snow, the soft green pear Laurie leaves in the mailbox to announce he is home for a visit from college, the bright red petals of the poppy scattered over Beth’s death bed. (Errr, spoiler alert. Beth dies.)
Want to live like one of the “Little Women?” Surround yourself in the colors and tastes of the March household.
Amy’s Limes “I’m so degradetated. I owe at least a dozen limes.”
Laurie’s Pear “Laurie’s home for the weekend! In need of funds, no doubt. We’d have a week’s groceries for what he spends on billiards.”
*OrganicGardening notes that the “available varieties include Asian types, European types, and hybrids of the two. The classic European pear varieties—’Bartlett’, ‘Anjou’, ‘Bosc’, ‘Comice’, and lately even ‘Seckel’— have become highly susceptible to a widespread bacterial disease called fire blight. They’re wonderful pears, suited to USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5 to 8, but not the best choices for large swaths of the East and other regions where warm, wet springs—prime fire blight conditions—are the norm.” If that sounds like your region, your best bet is the “Magness.”
Beth’s Poppies “I know I shall be homesick for you even in Heaven.”
Oh my god Beth. I was trying to end this on an up note. But I do love sobbing in that moment, when Beth tells Jo she can be brave, too. That she’s not afraid to go ahead of her sisters into the unknown. Cut to beloved hausfrau Hannah, tearing red poppy petals from the flower to sprinkle them over Beth’s empty bed, her worn, wrinkled hand pausing to grasp the hand of Beth’s doll.
SO SAD. But poppies, although associated with wartime death, don’t have to be. Work with me. They’re bright. Cheery. So here’s how to add some cheerful color to your garden and remember Beth in her better days, writing about the history of squash.
What is your favorite scene in “Little Women?” If you haven’t seen it, or it’s been a few years (or days) you can buy or rent it on YouTube. Pour a glass of gluhwein, pop some corn, curl up with the March sisters, and tell us all about it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and bustle of the holidays. We see Christmas decorations before Halloween and by Thanksgiving we should have our shopping list ready to go for the Black Friday craze and before you know it Christmas Eve is upon us.
With the blending of the holiday season we can forget to stop and enjoy each holiday. I try and slow down to really savor each season and holiday on their own. After all, I’ve waited all year for the falling of the leaves, I better enjoy it!
My favorite escape to enjoy fall before winter is to make a warm cup of tea and honey or enjoy some sweets by the fire. I remind myself of summer when I couldn’t wait for boots and sweaters or a warm cable knit throw and am grateful that the autumn months have arrived; even if it’s still sunny here in California.
I take a stroll down to the stables to greet the horses and smell the crisp chill of the evening air around the groves. I let my mind wander to the Thanksgiving menu and smile at the thought of family together again around one table.
As I walk back home for the night; I am thankful for the time I’ve taken to live in the moment.
It’s these small moments that bring me into the holiday season and remind me to not let autumn rush by.
Having grown up in relatively mild climates, where fall = rain and winter was a rare snow day, celebrated with pancakes, hot chocolate, and a sad attempt to push an inch of snow into a squat snowman, I never really understood what it meant to winter. After moving from Oregon to Southern California, I now understand it to mean wearing warm socks, turning on lights a bit earlier against the shorter days and longer nights, and breaking out the knit hat on a night out. It was only when I moved to Kosovo for one of their coldest winters on record that I discovered that “winter” could actually be a verb, and I needed to learn quite quickly how to do it. To stoke a dying fire that was the only source for cooking and heat in a place where the electricity was off for most of the day, to balance on icy sidewalks and shovel snow from the drive.
While it’s not *technically* winter until Solstice on December 21st, after our Halloween rain here in L.A., it finally feels like fall! It’s time “to autumn.” What does that look like for you? Beyond eating soup and wearing my favorite boots, I don’t know how I’d define it that verb. So I took to the interwebs, and learned that if you’re already feeling the chill of fall frosts coming, canning your veggies or storing them for the winter is a perfect way to welcome the colder weather. And for those of us in warmer areas, you can still plant cold-weather veggies, like lettuces, radishes, or carrots.
The other cool thing I learned while online boot shopping visiting MotherEarthNews.com is that storing your wintery veggies like beets, cabbage, and turnips is in keeping with their biennial nature (“plants that flower and set seed during their second growing season”), so they’re accustomed to hibernating for the winter. In addition to those root veggies, it’s easy to store celery, leeks, brussels sprouts, peppers, and citrus fruits for anywhere from two to eight weeks in a cool room, and MotherEarthNews says that onions, pumpkins, sweet potatoes will last ‘til spring if you keep them dry and cool. According to GrowVeg.com, late-harvested apples store best in trays with shredded newspaper, straw or special padded cardboard liners, in a cool, but not frosty, room.
Are you canning your fruits and veggies for the winter? Picking proper storage for your harvest? Tell us how you “autumn” in the comments or over on Twitter @TheCityFarm.
(Photo Credit: ChugachFarm.com)
I have made this Sweet Potato Casserole many times at Thanksgiving. Everyone loves this recipe. Be sure to check out my cookbook, All Time Favorite Recipes, for more recipes from family and friends. Enjoy!
1-1/2 lb. sweet potatoes
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
3 Tbsp. butter, cubed
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup pecan pieces
Pecan halves (optional)
Peel sweet potatoes, and cut into cubes. Cook, covered, in a small amount of boiling water for about 30 minutes or until tender. Drain.
Combine hot sweet potatoes, granulated sugar, milk, egg, the 3 Tbsp. butter and vanilla. With a wooden spoon, stir to break up potatoes but not completely mash them.
Put mixture into a greased 2-quart square baking dish.
Combine brown sugar and flour; cut in 2 Tbsp. butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
Stir in pecan pieces and sprinkle crumb mixture on top of potatoes.
Bake, uncovered, in a 350 degree oven about 25 minutes or till set.
Garnish with pecan halves, if desired.
Makes 8 servings as a side dish.
(Photo Credit: Pinterest)